What can you tell about a person from their name? Quite a lot, it turns out. The results aren't always 100 percent correct, of course, but there are probably some surprising connections between your name and how you live your life.
Here are five things data scientists have figured out how to estimate about a person from their name:
Data tinkerer Randy Olson created this name/age calculator using data from the U.S. Social Security Administration.
The black line on the graphic shows the number of babies given the particular name that year, while the shaded area shows the number of people from that year alive with that name as of January 2015. Olson says that records prior to 1940 are estimates and should be taken with a grain of salt, but those after 1985 are very reliable.
You can visit his site to try your own name or look up random popular names. Underneath the graphic, the calculator will tell you the median birth year of a person with that name and the likely age range.
Verdant Labs, the maker of a baby name research app, has used public records to chart disproportionately common names by profession.
People with the names are listed are more likely than others to have those professions – for example, a higher proportion of people named Wayne and Kevin are police officers, while those named Edgar and Hannah are more likely than their counterparts to be poets. (Click here to see a larger version.)
The chart shows names that are common in a profession relative to their overall frequency, not the most common name by profession. In other words, most journalists are not named Gideon – as for other jobs, they are probably named James or John or Mike – but a higher percentage of Gideons are journalists than Mikes are. (Mikes are busy being football coaches.)
Names of course reflect gender, race, class, the parents’ educational level and aspirations, and a whole host of other things, and those trends are on display here. Judges, poets and surgeons have (depending on how you look at it) distinguished, literary or high-falutin’ names like Archibald, Edgar and Sanford, while no football coach name makes it past one syllable.
The names are colored according to their country of origin. Blue text indicates British names, and red indicates names originally from Spain, both common around the country. In the upper Midwest, Scandinavian names such as Anderson and Nelson (in brown) and German ones such as Miller and Wagner (in yellow) are more frequent. O'Brien, Murphy, Kelly, and other Irish names (in green) are common in New England. A few of the most popular names in Louisiana are French, such as Hebert and Boudreaux, and there is a different set of French names in Maine. In California and Hawaii, Asian names such as Lee, Nguyen, Kim and Nakamura are more typical.
The data used here are somewhat out of date. They were compiled by researchers at University College London from phone directories in 2000 (when, according to the Census Bureau, the most common surnames nationally were Smith, Johnson, Williams, Brown, and Jones). A second caveat: as Asya Pereltsvaig makes clear, the map understates the diversity in the United States. Many slaves took their owners' names, so the African American population is completely invisible in this map. Likewise, Jewish immigrants often anglicized their names on their arrival in this country.
Democrats apparently prefer certain first names, while Republicans prefer others. Verdant Labs, maker of the Nametrix baby name research app, compiled this chart with data from its research into name preferences and data on political affiliations from the Federal Election Commission. (This is just a small portion of the chart -- you can see the full version here.)
Verdant Labs says the most Democratic baby names are Jonah, Malik, Natasha and Maya, while the most Republican are Delbert, Duane, Bailey and Brittney. The data also show a clear political gender divide, with more female names on the left-hand side and more male names on the right-hand side. Interestingly, Verdant also says that the male name distribution is “shaped like a fish, with the Democrat side having a long tail.” This might be an indication that Republicans are more conservative in their choices for male names, while Democrats tend to go for something more distinctive.
Many of names are, of course, influenced by the celebrities and music that were popular in American culture at the time. This short video by Abacaba tracks the most popular names for girls in America for each year from 1880-2013 using Census data. The video combines an extensive bubble chart that shows the percentage of babies born in the year with each name, the notable events for the year, a top 10 list of America’s most popular names, and surprisingly dramatic music. The colors of the bubbles indicate the initial letter of the name, while the size corresponds with their popularity.
You can see Shirley rise to the top in the 1930s, as Shirley Temple becomes a child star. In 1947, Buddy Clark’s “Linda” tops the song charts, and Linda overtakes Mary as the most popular name. The name Jacqueline booms in popularity after Jacqueline Kennedy becomes First Lady in 1961, while Michelle begins to climb after the Beatles release the song “Michelle” in 1965. Amanda hits third in 1979, as Waylon Jenning’s cover of “Amanda” tops the Billboard country chart.
The names tend to get more diverse as time goes on: 2007 marks two milestones, as no name exceeds 1 percent of all births, and the top 100 names cover less than one-third of all girls. The visualization ends in 2013, when a lot of the pre-1900 names are once again climbing in popularity, including names like Emma, Grace, Lillian and Elizabeth.